6 Unique Herbs to Try Growing This Year

6 Unique Herbs to Try Growing This Year

Happy Friday! As we have been plotting and planning our farm, which I hope to share with you soon as Jill is literally hand drawing the entirety of the property, we realized that while we created spaces for the vegetables, we had forgotten the herbs! We'll have produce growing all over the place: a bed for vegetables, a separate bed for squash, strawberry patch, cut flower bed, and... no herbs! Oops! We love being able to sell you our dried herbs in our online shop. I feel like we can finally send you a little piece of garden, especially with our tea mixes, and I hope to expand a little bit more with the apothecary later in this year. So Jill and I spent most of yesterday rethinking where we could plant a separate herb garden, and I think you all are going to love it once we are able to share the layout and the real life photos. It's going to be a little more structured and host a place for our one beehive this year and future hives. I am really excited! It will feel like a little escape in the woods. 

As most of you know, my journey into growing my own food started with an herb garden, and I have been growing my own herbs for medicinal and culinary use for almost three years now. It's been such a fun journey researching what different herbs can be used for, their folklore and history, and especially how to grow them. Today I want to share with you some unique, maybe not-so-popular varieties of herbs that you should definitely try growing this year. There are so many sites out there that tell you to plant the basics: lavender, chamomile, basil, parsley, oregano, sage, and thyme. I highly suggest that you plant these, too; if you plan to actually use your herbs, you'll need those. They are consistently coming in and out of my house. As a person who believes in diversity, especially among plants, then you may want to take a look at these 6 powerhouse herbs that are not only yummy and beautiful, but make excellent medicine! 

Marjoram

Marjoram is a cold-sensitive perennial herb native to Cyprus and Turkey that was known to the Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness. It is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine and is synonymous to oregano. It has very similar flavors and connotations to the herb we know so well here in the United States. To differ between them, Marjoram is more commonly known as Sweet Marjoram while oregano is known as Wild Marjoram. It has green ovular leaves and pink or purple flowers. It is cultivated mostly in France, Greece, Hungary, the US, and other Mediterranean countries. The most common use now? Herbs de Provence! 

  • It's medicinal uses include aiding hay fever, sinus congestion, indigestion, asthma, stomach pain, and nervous disorders. 
  • It has mild antioxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-spasmodic properties. 
  • For culinary purposes, it is most often used in soups, stews, and to season meats, fish, and even pizza.
  • The Ancient Greeks used marjoram as an antidote to poison, and to aid convulsions and edemas.
  • Women would carry this herb around in little sachets to nurture a growing love. It was often used in love charms and spells, placed under the pillow to help bring about a vision of your future love. Marjoram is one of our recommended herbs for a dream pillow mix!

Fennel

Fennel is an anise-scented perennial herb known for its feathery leaves and thick bulb, which can be sliced and cooked. It also produces large seeds  that can be used in cooking and herbal teas. Originating in the Mediterranean, its now commercially grown in Northern Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. In the United States, it is often considered an invasive weed. 

  • With many medicinal uses, this herb is a perfect staple for your home apothecary! It is a carminative, aromatic, expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and hepatic. 
  • It is most often used for digestion problems such as gas, indigestion, bloating (my personal favorite, it works so well!), appetite stimulation, and bad breath.
  • It can help to calm painful chest and intestinal problems. If you have a cough, bronchitis, gas, or cramps, brew up a tea of fennel seeds. The seeds can also be chewed and eaten!
  • In folklore, fennel has been known of as a medicinal plant since AD 23. It was believed to have been eaten and rubbed against snakes to help improve their eyesight. 
  • In the 1300s, King Edward I of England bought 8.5 pounds of fennel purchased, which he used an appetite suppressant (oops!) and often chewed on the seeds during church services to get through them. 
  • In the same age, fennel was hung over doorways to protect those indoors from evil spirits. Inserting the seeds into keyholes was also though to protect from spirits, especially on Midsummer's Eve. 

image via Bonnie Plants

Lemon Verbena

Native to South America, lemon verbena, or lemon beebrush and vervain, is a flowering plant cultivated most commonly for its oil. It is a perennial subshrub with signature pointed leaves and a powerful lemon scent. Tiny white or purple flowers growing in the early summer and is often quite sensitive to cold climates. While it has many medicinal uses, many find it works best to help flavor teas and season fish, poultry, vegetables, puddings, jams, and salad dressings. If you are a lover of The Vampire Diaries, you might remember that this is the herb used to weaken vampires - ha!

  • Considered the most heavily scented lemon plant. It is often used in perfumes and household cleansers.
  • Its essential oil contains a high concentration of antioxidants. The leaves can be dried and steeped to help boost the immune system, organs, and metabolism. It can help with weight loss, muscle strengthening, reducing inflammation, and soothes digestion.
  • The Ancient Romans believed that lemon verbena had purifying properties, and it was often used to clean alters after rituals. They also believed that adding it to a lover's drink could inspire passion.
  • The Ancient Greeks slept on pillows filled with lemon verbena to bring on pleasant dreams. We also use this herb in our dream pillows!
  • When used for beauty, lemon verbena can reduce redness, puffiness, and strengthen hair. 

Borage

Otherwise known as starflower, borage is a new one for me that I have yet to grow! It is native to the Mediterranean region, though it seems to grow best in the UK. It remains the garden year after year from self seeding. I think this quality is awesome, especially when it comes to wanting to save on seeds each year! The leaves are edible and plant produces characteristic purple flowers in the shape of a star. Most often it is grown for its seed oil, which is use in beauty and medicinal products. 

  • Borage is high in potassium and calcium. It is used as a diuretic and for fevers. 
  • It can be applied externally for inflammation and ringworm. 
  • In folklore, it was associated with courage and bravery. Roman soldiers would drink borage wine to prepare for battle. If a husband drank a borage tea, he would be filled with courage to propose. 
  • With its beliefs in courage, it actually can help strengthen other plants in the garden bed. It is a companion plants that can work as a natural insecticide and herbicide. It is perfect to plant amongst strawberries and tomatoes, helping with growth and flavoring. It can also be grown near cucumbers, beans, grapes, zucchini, squash, and peppers. 
  • Have a tomato hornworm problem? Use borage!

Image via rhshumway.com

Calendula

Okay, maybe not so unknown, but I think calendula is often underrated! It is so easy to grow, beautiful, and makes such a great staple for any home apothecary. Known commonly as "pot marigold," this edible flower is quite unlike common marigold. While marigolds are wonderful as a pet repellant in your garden, the flowers are not edible and can be potentially dangerous! Calendula has many of the same qualities in the garden, is edible, and is just as pretty. It has very little scent and comes in varying warm tones.

  • Calendula can be taken internally or externally and has many healing constituents such as flavanols, anti-inflammatory properties, antimicrobial, and antiviral. 
  • Use it to heal the skin after a burn, scrape, scarring, rash, wounds, ulcers, and eczema. 
  • It can help aid in upset stomach and gastric ulcers. Use it as a mouthwash or toothpaste to help fight oral bacteria, cold sores, and gum inflammation. 
  • Calendula was relied upon heavily by Europeans and early American colonists to help boost their immune systems during cold and damp winters. It was used then in soups and stews as well as in teas and beauty treatments.
  • Ancient Egyptians used calendula for rejuvenating skin treatments. In Ancient India it was strung in garlands for weddings and religious rituals. 
  • Stringing it over your bed was thought to protect your from robbers and thieves. It was also believed to induce prophetic dreams. If you wanted a positive outcome during legal matters, it was common to carry calendula in your pocket for luck. 

Feverfew

As the name suggests, feverfew was believed to help reduce fevers. It has a wide variety of medicinal uses and is most prized as a blood purifier (much like the common daisy, of which it is related) and digestive stimulant. It is native to Europe, North America, and Australia. You may also know this plant by its many common names: featherfoil, featherfew, midsummer daisy, bachelor's buttons, and flirtwort. 

  • A natural insecticide, feverfew is excellent at keeping away many insect pests. However, it does detract bees and other pollinators!
  • It can be used to treat many ailments such as fevers, migraines, headaches, arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, menstruation problems, labor during childbirth, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • In Ancient Egypt and Greece, feverfew was reached for when a person suffered from inflammation and menstrual cramps as well as general aches and pains. 
  • Very popular in cottage gardens, feverfew was used throughout history to help aid in just about everything! It seems like a good herb to have on hand.
  • During the time of the plague, it was planted outside the home to prevent those inside from disease. Because of its strong pesticide abilities, it is believed now that it most likely kept rats carrying the plague from wanting to enter homes!
  • Combined with hyssop and rosemary, it was thought to believe prevent general accidents from happening to a person when carried. 

There you have it! I hope to plant all of these new additions to my herb garden this year and am excited to see how we can cultivate their amazing healing properties. There is nothing I love more than healing with plants! You can find almost all of these in our online apothecary as well, if you are not particularly into gardening. That's okay! The benefits can still be felt by storing them in your kitchen cabinet. Which herbs will you be growing this year?

xoxo Kayla


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